Jailbait

Frank Rodriguez faces a lifetime on Texas’ sex offender registry for having sex with a 16-year-old—who is now his wife. He’s not alone.

He got five years' probation for that. "You're set up to fail in this system if you don't come from a rich family," William says.

He started drinking. A lot. "Every day," his brother says. Smoked a lot of weed, even did some coke. The booze and drugs offered an escape from a reality whose end, William was sure, would find him in prison.

Farrah got pregnant. The couple kept the child because William wanted to prove to himself he wasn't like the monsters he listened to every week in therapy. He was normal, dammit. But the state didn't treat him that way.

Frank and Nikki Rodriguez of Caldwell live a normal life--except that Frank must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. His crime: having sex with Nikki when she was 16 and he was 19. Though the sex was consensual, Texas considers him guilty of felony sexual assault of a child.
Mark Graham
Frank and Nikki Rodriguez of Caldwell live a normal life--except that Frank must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. His crime: having sex with Nikki when she was 16 and he was 19. Though the sex was consensual, Texas considers him guilty of felony sexual assault of a child.
The Rodriguezes have three daughters: Analissa, 4; Francesca, 3; and Layla, 1. When Frank was on probation, he had to move out of his parents' home--because his younger siblings lived there.
Mark Graham
The Rodriguezes have three daughters: Analissa, 4; Francesca, 3; and Layla, 1. When Frank was on probation, he had to move out of his parents' home--because his younger siblings lived there.

In 1998 he paid a sex offender therapist $275 to take the mandatory penile plethysmograph test, which is a device wrapped around one's penis that measures arousal levels while watching child pornography. William puked after the test. Once home, "I had trouble changing my daughter's diapers," he says.

From there, he rebelled against the system. He failed to complete his community service by February 1999. By July 2000, he was $531.50 behind on court fees--perhaps because he and Farrah, against his mother's wishes, had a second daughter. The next month, he failed to participate in sex offender therapy and was unsuccessfully discharged.

"Mom, they're going to put me in prison," he told Rosemary.

In 2001, after numerous other violations, they did. The prosecution offered him an eight-year sentence--a lenient term, since a motion filed to revoke probation for the sexual assault charge could have meant 99 years in prison. But William thought he could instead serve time in a rehabilitative center for his drug and alcohol abuse.

At his revocation hearing May 17, 2001, William said he snorted coke and smoked weed "pretty regularly" and drank "every day." But Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Malcolm Harden said at no other point during William's probation did he ask for help. Only after he faced prison time, Harden said, did William want to go to rehab.

Dallas County Criminal District Judge John Creuzot sentenced William, then 23, to 30 years in prison, with parole available after 13.


The terms of probation were ridiculous, he thought. Here they were, wanting to get married, and Mike Brandhuber could have no contact with Jenifer Tamplin because Jenifer was Mike's "victim." But Jack Tamplin would fix that; if he fixed nothing else of the mess he made, he would fix that.

On November 5, 1996, Mike visited his probation officer who slid across his desk a piece of paper that contained Mike's terms of probation.

"What's this?" Mike asked.

"This gets rid of condition 14," the officer said.

"What condition is that?"

"No contact with Jenifer."

The judge had already signed it. Jenifer's father had met with the judge and argued on Mike's behalf.

A few days later, Joseph was born. On December 6, Mike and Jenifer were married.

For Mike, probation was easy. Thanks to Mike's lawyer, Michele Esparza, who knew the Burleson County district attorney well, Mike didn't have the restrictions most sex offenders have. He didn't have to go to sex offender therapy. He could live as close as he wanted to a school. Could visit public parks, playgrounds and pools. Didn't have to do community service since he worked full time. In fact, the only drag was meeting once a week with Mike's probation officer because, somehow, the state of Texas deemed Mike a high-risk sex offender.

That was strange. How was it that a guy who Burleson County felt posed no risk to the public, who had perhaps the least restrictive terms of probation of any sex offender in Texas, nevertheless could be assessed as a high-risk offender on the registry?

"I have no idea," Mike says today.

"Static 99," says Allison Taylor of the Council on Sex Offender Treatment, with a snicker.

Static 99 is a questionnaire every sex offender completes upon his plea or conviction. It asks 10 questions of the offender's criminal past: his past as a sex offender (if he has one), his age, the gender of his victim and whether he's been married. From these questions, from this test alone, the offender's level of risk--low, moderate or high--is assessed.

Dr. Judy Johnson oversees the sex offender treatment program within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "It's a good projector of future risk," Dr. Johnson says. "So far, our data that we've tracked is right on track in terms of...recidivism probability."

Taylor disagrees. "If multiple tests were used"--like the dynamic testing element proposed in House Bill 867--"it'd give us a better idea of the type of person we're dealing with." She's not the only one who feels this way.

The co-creator of Static 99, Dr. David Thornton, says, "The ideal system would start with Static 99, but then...you would take into account more dynamic testing. I would be in favor of something that allows for more dynamic testing."

This, Taylor says, is how Mike Brandhuber became a sex offender with a high probability to reoffend.

Yet in spite of what the registry said, after a month of probation, Mike's terms were further relaxed. He needed to check in with his officer only twice a month, then once every month. The same standards, however, were not applied to Frank Rodriguez's probation.

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